A spate of new bills planned for Ohio's upcoming legislative session would ban abortions in that state, including measures to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks and after a fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome. Ohio Right to Life, the anti-abortion group backing these bills, has said openly that its ultimate goal is to challenge Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision affirming a woman’s right to have an abortion.
Another bill aims to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, which provides women with health care that includes contraception as well as abortions, by preventing the organization from receiving state grants for reducing infant mortality. Instead, Ohio Right to Life would lobby for federal funding to go to pregnancy crisis centers, whose medical services and objectivity have been questioned. Gabriel Mann, a spokesperson for NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said defunding Planned Parenthood programs would reduce contraceptive and reproductive health options for women.
State Representative Kristina Koegner and State Senator Peggy Lehner, both Republicans, are also expected to introduce bills to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, making the deadline for getting an abortion even shorter. In 2011, Ohio passed a law banning abortions after 24 weeks, or when the fetus is viable. The Supreme Court has ruled that viability, typically set at 24 weeks, is the standard cutoff point for abortions, preventing states from banning abortions any earlier. Still, some activists aim to pass such legislation so that in the event the Supreme Court overturns the 24-week ruling, legislation will already be in place to ban abortions at an earlier time period.
Pro-choice activists deemed the bill unconstitutional, as it would violate the Supreme Court’s ruling. In addition, "These legislative proposals interfere with the doctor-patient relationship and exploit complicated issues that can arise during pregnancy in the worst way," Kellie Copeland, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said in a statement. She added that medical decisions should be made in doctors’ offices, not statehouses. North Dakota is the only other state to ban abortions based on fetal anomalies. In 2013, it banned abortions based on an unwanted gender or a genetic abnormality, such as Down syndrome.
Anti-abortion activists contend that a fetus can feel pain at approximately 20 weeks and thus argue that the standard cutoff point for abortions should be 20, not 24 weeks. The Guttmacher Institute, which seeks to advance sexual and reproductive health, described this claim a “spurious belief.” In Ohio in 2013, just 0.7 percent of abortions occurred after 20 weeks into pregnancy.
The ultimate aim in seeking to ban abortions after 20 weeks is to challenge Roe v. Wade, a spokesperson for Ohio Right to Life, the anti-abortion group backing the bills, said. The group has already seen the impact of its efforts in Ohio. "What we’re doing is making a difference," Stephanie Krider, the executive director of Ohio Right to Life, said of the group’s advocacy, stating that in the past four years, abortions had dropped by 18 percent in Ohio. According to one study, in the United States overall, the number of abortion clinics fell to a 20-year low in 2014.